KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

Column: Books and Writing

Stories of Me: a reflective review

by Imogen , December 10, 2012Leave a comment

Photo credit: stusev

I recently saw Stories of Me, a documentary on the life of Paul Kelly, at the Luna cinema in Perth on a stormy day. I had needed to feel inspired. Being a writer –  working day-in, day-out on stories that often resist my best efforts – I at times feel despondent. At such times, I return to the voices I know: the people whose words give me flight, hope and pause for reflection.

It’s hard to believe that Paul Kelly ever feels as low but he says as much in the film, asking only for the next song. I imagine most writers have a similar Faustian pact: to ask, if not plead, for their next poem, story or screenplay.

For one so humble, Paul Kelly has made quite a name, and indeed it’s worth charting that success. It’s impressive to see that even early in his career he took calculated risks, consistently backing his vision, and writing the best music he possibly could.

I’ve often had Paul Kelly’s words on a bookshelf beside me. I first purchased his collected lyrics, Don’t Start Me Talking, in 2004. The book served me well, its paperback cover near fully bent back by the time I passed it on in 2009. In 2010, my father bought me How to Make Gravy: A Mongrel Memoir, a career retrospective mixing lyrics, tour notes and stories of Kelly’s life.

My life and Kelly’s songs have at times felt inextricably intertwined. ‘Carless’ on the tuckshop stereo while waiting for a hot dog and chips;  ‘Before Too Long’ blared out of a tinny car stereo while changing lanes in my first car – a hand-me-down Smurf-blue Toyota Corolla; me and my brother laid near-horizontal in white plastic lounge chairs as the opening refrain ‘To her Door’ drifted across a neighbour’s fence.

On his Nothing but a Dream tour, I recall a friend and me ‘holding it in’ at the concert. The two of us were three pints into the night and busting for the loo from early on, but were scared that if we went, we’d miss ‘Dumb Things’. As the concert continued, we grew fidgety. We relented halfway through ‘From Little Things, Big Things Grow’, the first song of his encore and rushed outside, well and truly spooked by the line snaking out of the gents. We jogged back from the car park ready to rock and then collectively groaned as the 144 beats per minute of ‘Dumb Things’ echoed out from a half-open stage door.

In hearing his songs, and reading his words, I often find release – a letting go of this strange tension between the things I write and the person I am; renewed hope that by opening my heart as a writer, I am doing something brave, honest, worthy.

I often listen to music as I write. Many writers are unable to write under such circumstances. I find music harnesses a racing mind, my thoughts slowed until fluid, dancing in and out of consciousness.

Writing this article, with Paul Kelly’s ‘Leaps and Bounds’ guiding me to greater reflection, I’m aware of the shared lineage between stories and songs. Paul Kelly’s ‘Everything’s Turning to White’ is based on Raymond Carver’s ‘So Much Water, So Close to Home,’ and the more astute listener will spot many such echoes in his work, not so much lifts as signs of a mind so eagerly devouring his world and the art that surrounds him.

It soothes many writers’ egos to pretend they are the great creator, God-guided as they shape their fictional worlds. In watching Stories of Me, I again realised that when it comes to creativity, the truth is somewhat more complex. That, in writing, we are drawing from the best songs we’ve heard, guided by those we’ve never met; that we’re drawing from memories, hopes and fears; that, in working our lives we’re working with stories, passed down and shared, from people still living, and those long gone.

It seems, in writing, that our ‘stories of me’ are often stories of us, our voices on their way to being heard, appreciated and reinterpreted.

Laurie Steed is a writer, editor and Killings columnist. He is currently completing his PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Western Australia.




West Bank

David Donaldson

Whitewashing occupation? Bill Shorten and the Israel Lobby

Racism and military occupation have no place in the modern world, and are certainly not something looked upon favourably by a majority of Australians. Yet while apartheid, for example, has become a byword for shame and racism, the Labor Opposition leader feels comfortable asserting that some Israeli West Bank settlements are legal. Read more »

Tony Abbott

David Donaldson

Abbott and Brandis’ culture war backfires

What is supposed to happen in a culture war is that conservatives use a controversial issue to drive a ‘wedge’ through the left, forcing a split between factions. In Australia, this usually means pitting Catholic unionists against their socially liberal colleagues in the Labor party. Read more »

climate change

David Donaldson

Australia is going backwards on climate policy

During the Howard years, it was usual for Australia to be awarded ‘Fossil of the Day’ by climate advocacy groups whenever it attended a climate negotiation conference. The award signifies the country that had done the most to hinder climate change negotiations, and Australia has won a pile of them. Read more »

Zoe Pilger

Carody Culver

Girls, eat your hearts out

Middle class hipsters, conceptual artists and third-wave feminists have long been easy targets for mockery, so I admit that I wasn’t expecting anything too groundbreaking when I picked up Zoe Pilger’s Eat My Heart Out, a satirical romp through contemporary London that reads like a surreal mash-up of Broad City, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Less Than Zero. Read more »

Laika, Astronaut Dog

Carody Culver

Houston, we have a fabrication

As someone who doesn’t have children, I’m no less resistant than any of my book-loving friends-with-kids to the charm of a beautiful picture book. So when I spotted Laika: Astronaut Dog by writer and illustrator Owen Davey, with its charming retro-style artwork Read more »

& Sons

Carody Culver

WASPiration: David Gilbert’s & Sons

As someone who’s always secretly aspired to being a WASP (before you mercilessly judge me for this, I should clarify that my desire has less to do with attaining elevated social and financial status than with being able to dress like a character in The Great Gatsby Read more »

American Pickers

Julia Tulloh

Eccentric junk collectors held high on American Pickers

The History Channel’s American Pickers, currently in its sixth season, is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable reality series on TV. It’s not a competition show, it doesn’t exist to objectify people and it isn’t particularly dramatic. So what’s the appeal? Read more »

Justin Timberlake

Julia Tulloh

Pleasantly forgettable: Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience

On 7 March this year, tickets went on sale for the Australian leg of Justin Timberlake’s latest tour, ‘The 20/20 Experience’. All five shows sold out in a few hours. The same day, five new shows were released, with most tickets for these rapidly selling out too. Read more »

BuzzFeed

Julia Tulloh

BuzzFeed quizzes understand me

If you use social media regularly – Facebook, in particular – you’ll have completed a BuzzFeed quiz during the past month. Don’t deny it. Even if you didn’t share your results online, deep down you’re still feeling smug because the ‘What Should You Actually Eat For Lunch?’ quiz confirmed that eating ice cream was, in fact, an appropriate meal for your personality type. Read more »

The Lego Movie

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Nostalgia and today’s family-friendly films

Hollywood has always known the adults are watching alongside the kids, and that to push a film into record profits (as Lego looks set to do with a global box office of $428 million and counting), you need to appeal to ‘kids of all ages’. Read more »

nympho-poster

Rochelle Siemiennowicz

Weirdos on screen: Noah and Nymphomaniac

There are some filmmakers you’ll follow into the dark, no matter how bad the buzz is about their latest work. For me, naughty boy Lars von Trier (The Idiots, Breaking the Waves, Dogville, Antichrist, Melancholia) and strange kid Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan) are two filmmakers who can be loved or detested, but never ignored. Read more »

planes

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Notes from a plane

There’s an art to choosing the right film for every particular occasion, and as I nervously sit in a Qantas jet about to take off on a four-hour flight from Melbourne to Perth, the choice seems very important indeed. Read more »

tweet

Connor Tomas O'Brien

The Web as an Empathy Machine

Ad hoc Twitter projects like #RaceSwapExp neatly draw together all that is terrific and all that is terrible about the web as a system. Depending on how it is used, the web can either allow us to retreat into callousness, cliques, and fixed ways of thinking or it can function as the world’s most sophisticated and effective empathy machine. Read more »

Samsung fingers

Connor Tomas O'Brien

‘Fooled’ by technology

As I browsed the web last Tuesday, something struck me: tech companies can no longer pull off compelling April Fools’ Day hoaxes because there’s no longer even the thinnest line delineating sincerity from spoof. Read more »

wifi

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Flight 370 and gaps in the internet

On Twitter the other day, sandwiched between a slew of links to articles about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, somebody tweeted a link to the website for Tile, a Bluetooth-enabled device that can be attached to physical objects, enabling them to be located within a 150-foot range. Read more »

Magabala Books

Danielle Binks

Magabala Books and the importance of Indigenous YA literature

Magabala is Australia’s leading independent Indigenous publishing house based in Broome, Western Australia. An independent Aboriginal Corporation since 1990, Magabala’s objective is, ‘restoring, preserving and maintaining Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.’ Read more »

Young Adulthood Books

Danielle Binks

The young adult books of my young adulthood

In March, Penguin Books Australia rereleased Melina Marchetta’s first novel as part of its Australian Children’s Classics series. Looking for Alibrandi was first published in 1992; the first print run sold out in two months, and Marchetta’s debut went on to win the Children’s Book Council of Australia Children’s Book of the Year Award. Read more »

When You Reach Me

Danielle Binks

A children’s lit prize of one’s own

Earlier this year, Readings Bookstore announced the creation of The Readings Children’s Book Prize. The eligibility criteria for the 2014 Prize was specified as ‘a work of published fiction, written for children aged 5–12’. Read more »

EMA

Chad Parkhill

Radical honesty: EMA’s The Future’s Void

Erica M. Anderson’s recently released second solo album, The Future’s Void, has been for the most part well-received by critics – albeit with some caveats. Read more »

music theory

Chad Parkhill

Do music critics need music theory?

Canadian musician Owen Pallett – the man who arranged the strings on Arcade Fire’s albums, co-wrote the soundtrack for Spike Jonze’s Her, and has a bunch of wonderful solo albums – can now add another feather to his cap: that of an engaging music writer. Read more »

Tune Yards

Chad Parkhill

Drips, leaks, and spurts

I’ve spent the last two weeks in a state of perpetual excitement – musically speaking, that is. First came tUnE-yArDs’ new song, ‘Water Fountain’, a joyous, riotous explosion of colour and movement. Then Swans released ‘A Little God in My Hands’, a seven-minute epic of a track … Read more »

Community

Stephanie Van Schilt

Diary of a lurker: TV and Twitter

At the end of last month, global information provider Nielsen announced that Australia was to become the third country in the world with the ‘Nielsen TV Twitter Ratings’ service. According to a Nielsen Company press release, the Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings are ‘the first-ever measure of the total activity and reach of TV-related conversation on Twitter’. Read more »

Broad City

Stephanie Van Schilt

Funny Broads

‘All comparisons between Girls and Broad City should be hereto forth banned from the internet.’ I agree with Katherine Brooks. Yet the comparisons continue, ad nauseam, mostly following one of two lines of thought. Read more »

The Carrie Diaries

Stephanie Van Schilt

‘Alive Girl’ TV: The Carrie Diaries

Get ready to feel old: it’s been ten years since the final episode of Sex and the City aired. I’m not talking about the first episode back in 1998, but the final episode – the one before the two questionable movies were released. Read more »